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New York state senator promotes anti-phishing bill
[December 16, 2005]

New York state senator promotes anti-phishing bill

(Newsday (Melville, NY) (KRT)) Dec. 16--A Long Island state senator promoted a bill yesterday to combat phishing, a virulent online scam to steal personal information.

During a news conference, State Sen. Charles Fuschillo (R-Merrick), chairman of the Senate's Consumer Protection Committee, touted industry support for a bill he sponsored, the Anti-Phishing Act of 2005, which passed the Assembly in June but awaits Senate approval. Representatives from organizations including Microsoft Corp., the AARP and the Cable Telecommunications Association in attendance said anti-phishing laws are essential to combating the fraud.

Lois Aronstein, the New York State director for AARP, said that as more older people go online, they become susceptible to phishing. "This kind of identity theft is very dangerous for older people," she said.

In phishing scams, victims are lured via e-mail to replicas of Web sites for prominent companies -- such as Citibank and eBay. They are asked to update personal information, which is harvested and can be used fraudulently.

The legislation would allow the state attorney general, companies or nonprofits to sue phishers for the greater of actual damages or $500 for each violation.

Most phishing perpertrators are abroad, and Fuschillo said states cannot combat this alone. "The challenge is finding [the perpetrators]," he said. "What we really need is a coordinated effort on the federal level."

Federal anti-phishing legislation is making its way through both houses of Congress. California passed an anti-phishing law in October.

Yesterday, Google took a step to combat phishing with a component to the Firefox Web browser that uses advanced algorithms and reports of misleading pages to automatically warn users of potential phishing sites. The free software is available at

Such technology is effective, said Avivah Litan, an analyst with Gartner, a consulting company in Stamford, Conn. "The most effective way to combat this crime is with better technology and more consumer awareness." But the legislation can't hurt, she said. "It's a step in the right direction. It just needs to be accompanied by more teeth."

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